Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Deliberate provocation?

Hotham increasingly shared Rede’s suspicions about the revolutionary aims of the diggers and decided to reinforce the regular troops in Ballarat. As events moved rapidly to their climax over the next six days, all Hotham could do was to wait for despatches to arrive in Melbourne with growing unease. On 27 November,[1] he deployed 70 soldiers of the 12th Regiment under the command of Captain Atkinson and a company of the 40th Regiment, 50 strong, commanded by Captain Henry Wise to Ballarat. [2] When Wise arrived at Ballarat the following day, he brazenly marched his men with bayonets fixed and muskets primed through the diggings to the Government Camp. In addition, the Argus reported that mounted police troops with two pieces of artillery and many of the police from Melbourne were also under orders to go to Ballarat.

In Ballarat, Father Smyth, acting as an unofficial mediator, secretly visited Commissioner Rede on Sunday night or Monday morning warning him of the potentially explosive situation on the diggings and that the Camp was in danger of being attacked. As a result, Rede reported his concerns to Melbourne having been informed that the diggers could muster 1,000 rifles and 900 men had assembled on one occasion to attack the Camp. This was fabricated either by Rede or Smyth since at no time were the diggers able to muster 1,000 riflemen in Ballarat. Rede faced a paradox: an attack on the Camp was daily expected and yet the diggers appeared as quiet and well-disposed as ever. There is no evidence that the Reform League had any intention of attacking the Camp and Rede was correct in telling Melbourne he was in charge of the fields in which good order prevailed. Despite this, he concluded that the only way out of this impasse was to crush the digger movement. Events now reinforced that conviction.

On Tuesday 28 November, a detachment of two officers and men of the 12th Regiment, accompanied by supply carts carrying ammunition arrived at Ballarat at dusk.[3] Unlike Captain Wise, the officer commanding did not order his men to fix bayonets or load their muskets; in fact many of the muskets were not being carried but were in the carts. Their route took them through the Eureka diggings, a difficult process during the day but even more so at night, where the last two carts were attacked by a group of diggers. A skirmish occurred, shots were fired and the wagons overturned. John Egan, the Regiment’s drummer boy was shot in the leg and an American driver seriously wounded. [4] It has never been determined who attacked the soldiers or who fired the shots but the attack may have been occasioned by the belief among diggers that the soldiers were bringing artillery to Ballarat. At the time of the scuffle, Rede was attending a function for the American Consul James Tarleton at the Victoria Hotel where Tarleton gave his support to the government and reminded American diggers that they should obey the law. [5] Once his reinforcements arrived, Rede had 435 officers and men under arms. Rede had, according to some sources ‘come to a state bordering on frenzy’. [6] He saw the mob as the potential source of rebellion but he was unsure who the mob was except that he believed that no true Briton was part of it. He was also unclear about what rebellion meant but feared a republican uprising. By Tuesday night, Rede had the military force to deal with anything the diggers were planning.

Public opinion was important to the diggers but this incident suggests that they were not going out of their way to cultivate it. The Argus had been forthright in its criticism of the government and in its support for the diggers but this incident led to a temporary shift in editorial perspective. It commented:

While the burning of the Eureka Hotel was condemned as a rash and inconsiderate action, the hope was entertained that the occurrence might give additional earnestness to the enquiry which has been instituted, and lead to real and permanent good....A wagon upset in the dark night, the soldiery, who have never yet struck a blow or fired a shot against the diggers, beaten with their own arms, a driver brutally maltreated and a poor drummer shot through the thigh - are these deeds that will enlist the sympathies of an intelligent people? Is the maiming of a drummer-boy a worthy triumph for a large mass of a British population, who wish to occupy a creditable position in the eyes of the world?’ With an eye to the future, the editorial commented ‘Now it must be evident to intelligent men that there is a point at which Government must take a stand. [7]

Evans was equally critical of the attack:

It is some relief to the feelings of Englishmen to know that the row was commenced & principally carried on by the worst portion of the digging community, old Convicts & Tipperary men, for no man however well disposed towards the diggers’ interests can disguise the fact from himself that it was a cowardly affair. [8]

[1] Argus, 28 November 1854, p. 4.
[2] Smith, Neil C., Soldiers Bleed Too: the Redcoats at the Eureka Stockade 1854, (Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications), 2004, lists the men of the 12th and 40th Regiments.
[3] ‘Domestic Intelligence’, Argus, 1 December 1854, p. 5, wrongly identified the troops as from the 40th Regiment. See also, Rede to Chief Gold Commissioner Wright, 30 November 1854, PROV, 1189/P Unit 92, J54/14460.
[4] John Egan or Eagan was not fatally wounded in this incident as was persistently believed until shown as myth by Dorothy Wickham. The people of Ballarat even erected a small memorial to him since he was thought to have died in the rebellion. Egan did not die until 8 September 1860 (Death Certificate: NSW 1860/002463) aged twenty-one at Victoria Barracks Sydney and was interred in the Roman Catholic burial grounds.
[5] Potts, E. Daniel, and Potts, Annette, ‘American Republicanism and the Disturbances on the Victorian Goldfields’, Historical Studies, Vol. 13, (1968), pp. 145-164, and Potts, E. Daniel, and Potts, A., Young America and Australian Gold, (University of Queensland Press), 1974, explore the American dimensions to Eureka.
[6] Ibid, Molony, John, Eureka, p. 118.
[7] Argus, 28 November 1854, p. 4, 1 December 1854. p. 5.
[8] SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 28 November 1854, p. 117.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Fear, more fear and yet more fear

Although we will not know whether David Cameron has been able pull the proverbial rabbit from his hat until Friday and come back from Brussels with a settlement that he can put to the people, the campaigns for and against remaining in the EU started well before Christmas.  Some argue that what Cameron has negotiated is largely irrelevant to whether people are in favour of remaining in the EU or not.  This is a campaign that will be won or lost on the basis of fear.  This is already evident in the media with newspapers putting forward fear stories on an almost daily basis.  For instance, the Sunday Express says congestion charging could be introduced into towns across Britain under EU guidelines to reduce global warming…now that’s guaranteed to anger motorists and those who see the EU as simply interfering in people’s lives..while in the Sunday Times travel chiefs suggest that, in the event of Brexit, cheap flights are at risk…so no more cheap continental holidays. Eurosceptic Conservative Sir Bill Cash claims German MP Gunther Krichbaum told him the UK would not be able to survive on its own and could face crippling trade tariffs on its exports. Mr Krichbaum denies the claim and says he simply warned that Britain would no longer have access to the single market.

Although there is great enthusiasm either way for the referendum in the Westminster village.   The Independent on Sunday highlights a poll suggesting the prime minister's personal ratings have slumped amid dissatisfaction with his EU renegotiation efforts. The numbers who look on David Cameron favourably dropped seven points in the past three months to 31 per cent- although the same poll sees support for the Tories over Labour extend to 14 points.  I do not get any real enthusiasm from talking to people in Dunstable. In fact, if anything, it’s the reverse. Even those who say that they intend to vote in favour of the EU—and remember this is before the deal is finalised—do so with little enthusiasm…it’s a case of, on balance, I think we’re better remaining in but I can’t say that I have any real feeling for the EU.  Young people, especially if you’re 16 and 17, feel short-changed by politicians who gave them the vote in the Scottish referendum but deny them in the equally constitutional EU referendum.  That many would have voted to remain in the EU is perhaps why this was the case but that’s a political rather than constitutional decision.  Although the current polls suggest that the ‘leave campaign’ had a slight lead, it is a campaign that is incoherent, divided and leaderless with competing organisations seemingly unable to come together while the ‘stay campaign’ appears—with the exception of Alan Johnson’s Labour pro-EU organisation—to have really not got going at all…whoever thought that Lord Rose should be the face of the remain campaign really don’t understand the general public at all…a bucket of Fried Chicken would have greater appeal.

In fact, looking at the limited nature of the negotiations, the mess of the remain campaign, the internal divisions in the leave campaign and the lack of enthusiasm among the public for the whole thing…it’s all a big stitch-up as one person confided in me…it’s hardly surprising that it’s a case of fear, more fear and yet more fear. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Trials and demands

Although the Riot Enquiry, which reported on 17 November, expressed general satisfaction with affairs in Ballarat, it recommended the dismissal of Police Magistrate Dewes, whose close links with James Bentley were exposed and Police Sergeant-Major Milne, whose activities included bribery and corruption, on which Hotham acted quickly on 20 November. [1] It also noted that the most important cause of alienation was the gold license. Hotham had already concluded that a full-scale investigation was needed after his visit to the goldfields in August and on 16 November had established a Royal Commission to Inquire into the Condition of the Goldfields of Victoria, something more wide-ranging than the Riot Enquiry. [2] Chaired initially by William Haines[3] and supported by fellow Legislative Councillors John Pascoe Fawkner, John O’Shanassy, William Westgarth and James Strachan [4] and by William Wright, the Chief Commissioner, its report proved to be a ‘document of crucial importance’. [5] Commissioner Rede was in Melbourne during the second and third weeks of November attending the trial of Fletcher, McIntyre and Westerby and took the opportunity to meet with both Wright and Hotham. He was increasingly convinced that problems in Ballarat were the result of a small group of ‘foreigners’ who wanted to overthrow colonial government and who were manipulating the other diggers. Hotham took a less serious view of the Ballarat incidents recalling most of the troops sent to restore order after the riot on 17 October though he agreed with Rede on limiting the influence of known troublemakers.

On Saturday 18 November, the trial of James Bentley, Catherine Bentley, John (or Thomas) Farrell and William Hance in Melbourne’s Supreme Court began. Judge Redmond Barry presided over the case; Richard Ireland acted as Counsel for the Bentleys, while A. Michie and Mr Whipman represented Thomas Farrell and William Hance respectively. Crown Prosecutor, Attorney-General W. F. Stawell, presented evidence that had been previously used in the inquests and magisterial hearings, but on this occasion called two new witnesses, who would alter the fate of the accused. [6] Michael Welsh, who lived at the Eureka Hotel, testified that on the night of Scobie’s murder he saw the victim arguing with William Hance through the broken window of the hotel. This evidence was supported by the testimony given by Mooney that revealed Bentley’s and Farrell’s attempts to conceal what had occurred in the early hours of that morning. The jury took only fifteen minutes to convict Bentley, Hance and Farrell of the manslaughter of James Scobie but Catherine Bentley, now heavily pregnant was acquitted. On 20 November, they were sentenced to three years hard labour on the roads. [7]

The same day, Redmond Barry began the trial of McIntyre, Fletcher and Westerby who were represented by Richard Ireland. During the trial, Ireland stated that had the authorities been more vigilant in dealing with the death of James Scobie, the diggers would not have felt compelled to seek their own form of justice. Stawell, taking great offence on the government’s behalf, retorted that the motive behind Ireland’s inflammatory statement was monetary, a claim the defence counsel vehemently denied, stating he was defending the three diggers pro bono. Despite evidence from Assistant-Commissioner Amos and others that McIntyre had tried to save property from the hotel and Fletcher was only a spectator, several witnesses against McIntyre had submitted depositions of his active involvement in the destruction of the hotel. [8] The jury retired in the afternoon to discuss its verdicts but returned two hours later claiming it could not reach a unanimous verdict seeking permission to take account of the ineptitude of the police on the day and the provocation experienced by the diggers. Redmond Barry emphatically refused the request. At around 9 pm after deliberating for five hours, the jury returned its verdict to the court. McIntyre, Fletcher and Westerby were found guilty with a recommendation for clemency. The jury expressed its opinion that ‘it would never have been their painful duty to give such a verdict had the Government officials at Ballarat done theirs’, a declaration well received in the community. The crowd in the courtroom asserted its jubilation with loud cheers, even though Judge Barry refused to accept the jury’s rider, itself an unorthodox decision. The following day, Redmond Barry handed down less harsh sentences than were anticipated: McIntyre three months, Fletcher four months and Westerby six month in Melbourne Gaol. Barry’s leniency may have been intended to avoid providing further grievances among the diggers and prevent further acts of civil disobedience. The Argus concluded:
In this trial, as in that of Bentley, the law has been upheld; but, in both cases, the Government has been disgraced. The verdict of the jury, in the case of the riot was as adverse to the Government as it was to the prisoners. [9]

On Monday 27 November, the Ballarat Reform League’s representatives John Humffray, Thomas Kennedy and George Black went to Melbourne to meet Hotham, but without success. [10] The deputation put the diggers’ grievances before Hotham, the Colonial Secretary and Attorney-General were also present, not as a petition, but as demands. Evans commented:

I never heard of anything more ridiculously absurd. No man in his senses can believe for a moment that the Governor will recognize the word demand in a petition. It is easy to guess the result of it. [11]

George Black ‘demanded’ the release of McIntyre, Fletcher and Westerby ‘in the name of the Ballarat diggers’. Hotham unsurprisingly took exception to the use of the word. Black pointed out that it had been requested by the Reform League Committee and reiterated that all the diggers felt that they were guilty of arson but were justified in their actions as the magistrates had failed to dispense justice. Hotham argued that he had set up the Board of Enquiry that uncovered corruption on which he had already acted and that he had also appointed a Royal Commission though Black objected that its members had been appointed without reference to the diggers. Although emphasis has been placed on the diggers’ ‘demand’, the minutes of the meeting suggests that it was more wide-ranging dealing with the broader constitutional and political issues raised by the diggers. Humffray emphasised the constitutional nature of the protest but intimated to Hotham that the ‘popular voice’ needed to be heard. Hotham appeared willing to make some concessions offering to admit one elected digger representative to the Legislative Council immediately but Black felt that this was insufficient. The delegates were reminded of the benefit to the diggers in the new legislation that was then en route to England and the meeting ended. The delegates, who found Hotham fair but certainly not conciliatory, left the meeting with only a vague hope that a formally prepared petition might bring success and returned to Ballarat to consult with their members. Hotham and the moderate reformers had lost their last opportunity for reconciliation.

[1] Riot at Ballarat, Report and Evidence of the Board of Enquiry into the Death of James Scobie and Burning of the Eureka Hotel, printed 21 November 1854, Votes & Proceedings, A.27/1854-55. See also, ‘Legislative Council’, Argus 22 November 1854, p. 4.
[2] ‘Legislative Council’, Argus, 17 November 1854, p. 4. Anderson, Hugh, (ed.), Report from the Commission appointed to inquire into the Condition of the Goldfields, first published 1855, (Red Rooster Press), 1978, pp. 116-120.
[3] Malone, Betty, ‘William Clark Haines (1810-1866)’, ADB, Vol. 4, pp. 315-317.
[4] Brown, P. L., ‘James Ford Strachan (1810-1875)’, ADB, Vol. 2, p. 492.
[5] H. V. Evatt’s introduction to Carboni, Raffaelo, The Eureka Stockade, first published 1855, (Sunnybrook Press), 1942, p. xxvi.
[6] The brief for the prosecution documents the ways in which it planned to conduct its case against those accused of Scobie’s murder, PROV 5527/P Unit 1, Item 5.
[7] ‘The Trial of Bentley’, Argus, 20 November 1854, p. 4.
[8] PROV 5527/P Unit 1, Item 8.
[9] Argus, 21 November 1854.
[10] Minutes of the meeting between Hotham and the diggers’ representatives: PROV 1095/P Unit 3, Bundle 1 no. 16. Ibid, Molony, John, Eureka, pp. 106-110, gives a riveting account of the meeting. See also, ‘Ballaarat’, Argus, 29 November 1854, p. 4.
[11] SLV, MS 13518, Charles Evans, Diary, 26 November 1854, p. 116.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

A piece of paper!

In his review of  Peter Wilson’s recently published The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History, (Allen Lane), 2016,  John Adamson began by stating: ‘Surveying the various models available in 1787 for governing the still-constitution-less United States, James Madison, perhaps the shrewdest of the Founding Fathers, was certain of one thing: the Holy Roman Empire, at that date the largest of all European states, exemplified the one type of federal constitution that he most wanted to avoid. The Empire was a body, he concluded, ‘incapable of regulating its own members; insecure against external dangers’, and with a history marked by ‘general imbecility, confusion and misery’. It is no coincidence that the Holy Roman Empire has acquired a new and topical prominence in Eurosceptic punditry as a mirror for the ills of the European Union. Like the Holy Roman Empire of old, the EU is hard put to regulate its own members, incapable of securing its internal or external borders, and beset with consensus-obsessed processes of decision-making that render decisive collective action all but impossible. The lessons of history are clear, it is claimed: supranational federalism has been tried before – and it doesn’t work.’

(Bibliothèque nationale de France)

The coronation of Charlemagne
Yesterday, the draft settlement defining Britain’s relationship with the EU was published and a couple of hours ago David Cameron made a statement to the House of Commons.  It is an important document as a statement of principles about the future direction of the EU but whether it will have a significant impact on the referendum is more debatable.  As I have said before I think that people’s decision for or against Brexit  comes down to those who are, as yet undecided.  For those in favour of Brexit, what the Prime Minister was able to renegotiate really doesn’t matter as they have already made up their minds.  In many respects, the same can be said for those in favour of remaining in the EU.  Yes, they want reforms but are prepared to accept anything that David Cameron can negotiate.  It’s those who are not decided or who are persuadable either way who are the key to the result.  Jeremy Corbyn is in many respects right when he dismissed the negotiations as a ‘smoke and mirror sideshow’.  Despite his assertion that Britain could have the ‘best of both worlds’ by giving it access to the single market and a voice around the top EU table, while retaining its status as a ‘proud independent country not part of a superstate’, critics say that the draft deal, thrashed out with European Council President, Donald Tusk, fell far short of what Mr Cameron had originally promised.  Reading the draft settlement is a bit like reading a statement of intent rather than a clear statement of where Britain wants to go with the EU. 

The problem, and it’s been a problem since the 1970s, is one of the ‘democratic deficit’ at the heart of the whole EU project.  It is not a project that is based on a consensus of the European peoples but a consensus only among EU technocrats and officials who come hell or high water, political crises or referendums to push the principles of the Treaty of Rome into practice.  They have an ideological commitment to their cause that they are unwilling to compromise irrespective of what ‘the people’ say or how they vote in referendums insisting, as in the case of Ireland, that the country has a second referendum after its proposals were comprehensively rejected in the first.  What will be interesting is, should Britain vote for Brexit, whether the EU will suggest a second referendum after further negotiation?